YingYing with keynote speaker, Arianna Huffington
I came into the Pennsylvania Conference for Women not knowing what to expect. I simply wanted to promote Girl Up as a “local leader” for the Young Women’s Program, but I left knowing the steps to success.
I also had a really inspirational conversation with Delia Ephron, best-selling author and screenwriter for the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Because I aspire to be a writer in the future, I was struck by Ephron’s secret to success: nothing is ever coincidence. At age 30, Ephron decided that she wanted to be an author, so she sold everything and went to New York with the specific goal of getting published in the New York Times. She knew that it mattered where you were published, so she leveraged her connections—and it paid off. When her savings was down to the last $300, Delia got published, and her big break came soon after. Within a year and a half of coming to New York, Delia had a deal for her first book, How to Eat like a Child, but it all rested on that turning point when she packed up her entire life and decided to go to New York to pursue her dream. Ephron emphasized that success is almost always intentional. If you want something to happen for you, make it happen.
Later, I attended a breakout session by Cathie Black, former president and publisher of USA Today and author of book Basic Black. She held a session on executive presence where she emphasized the fact that to succeed in business, women have to have an aura that says, “I belong in this seat.” She talked about dressing well, making good first impressions, and being bold enough to say to your boss, “I deserve this raise and promotion.” Just like Ephron, Black stressed the importance of taking initiative.
During the luncheon, board president of PA Conference for Women Leslie Stiles spoke about how women still have a way to achieve gender equality. She reminded us that the most important thing we can do is to vote this November, because that is one more way women can actively shape world. Keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, stressed the importance of perseverance. “Failure is not the opposite of success,” she said, “It’s the stepping stone.”
My mentoring session with Elle Kaplan, CEO & Founder of Lexion Capital was amazing. She taught me how to balance confidence with humility. She told me about her one-and-a-half year old company that appeared to be an overnight success, earning six figures within three hours of its launch, but was really the product of a decade of hard work. She emphasized the ten years of sleepless nights and eating half a bagel for lunch and half a bagel for dinner that led to the skill and foundation for her later victory. She told me about how being a multimillionaire doesn’t mean she isn’t humble—she still shops at TJ Maxx because that’s where she shopped when she came to New York with only $200. Humility is important, and you have to give back no matter what level of success you reach.
Lastly, it was amazing to speak to the girls at the Young Women’s Program. After I set up my station with promotional materials in the back, I talked about Girl Up and encouraged everyone to get involved. However, when I asked the audience, “Any questions?” I was still surprised by the number of hands that shot up. The girls had so many questions about how to become involved in Girl Up, how to spread the word at their respective high schools and, throughout the day, I saw many girls wearing the “Ask Me about Girl Up” pins on their blazers. Later, a girl approached me with some event ideas and told me her own personal experiences about carrying buckets of water on her head when she was a 7-year-old living in Ghana. Other girls I spoke to told me they had signed up on the website as I spoke.
As I heard these girls’ passion and initiative, I was reminded of author Delia Ephron and Cathie Black’s points about going for what you want. I was inspired myself, both by these influential women’s stories and by the confirmation of what I had always known—this generation of girls cares so much about the future and about other girls, and it is truly in our hands to change the world. We have great role models and someday, we will be those great role models, stressing the importance of initiative to the next generation.
Initiative, persistence, and humility—sounds like a recipe for success to me. When girls succeed, so does society. Let’s get started.